RIN-NE: Episode 1 – “The Mysterious Student”

RIN-NE is based on a manga written by Rumiko Takahashi. The anime is produced by Brain’s Base and is being directed by Seiki Sugawara. As of this writing, Sentai Filmworks holds the North American distribution license for RIN-NE.

The series introduces Sakura Mamiya, a little girl who had somehow made it to where the Ring of Reincarnation is but was led back to the human world by an unidentified woman. Unfortunately, the anime doesn’t explain that Sakura had disappeared in the woods behind her grandmother’s house and ended up there. Instead, we simply see her there.

The story then jumps ahead to when Sakura is in high school, and we learn that she can see ghosts. It’s also established that Rinne Rokudo, the student who is supposed to sit next to Sakura in class, has been absent since the beginning of the school year. One day, a red-haired boy wearing a haori sits down in the empty seat, but only Sakura can see him. She then sees a large ghost of a Chihuahua enter the room and Rinne trying to exorcise it.

But the next day, the same red-haired boy appears in the classroom. This time, he wears a track suit and can be seen by the other students. It turns out the red-haired boy is Rinne. At the same time the mystery of Rinne is unfolding, Sakura’s friend Rinka is constantly getting the same wrong number call on her new phone. She blocks the number for the calls, but the calls keep coming. And when she calls the number to complain, she hears a message about the number not being in service.

Through this story, Sakura learns that Rinne is “kind of” a Shinigami, and that it’s his job to guide restless spirits with earthly regrets to the Ring of Reincarnation. With Rinne’s explanation, I always find myself thinking that what he does is very similar to what the Soul Reapers do in Bleach.

It turns out that Rinka’s wrong number calls are connected to a ghost having an earthly regret and that the spirit has a connection to Sakura and Rinne’s teacher. This episode also sees the Chihuahua ghost and the ghost of a boy that follows Sakura around needing to be sent on to the afterlife as well.

I had read the first volume of the manga before seeing this episode, so I already knew to expect some of the weaknesses that the episode had. The biggest weakness is the fact that there’s really no hook to grab the viewer, unlike other Takahashi titles such as Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha. There was something that those series had to grab the audience’s attention, which just isn’t present in RIN-NE. At this point, there’s no real chemistry between Sakura and Rinne, Sakura is a bland character, and the only characteristic that Rinne seems to have is the fact that he’s broke. Rinne needing to mooch money off of Sakura in order to get things done became a running gag throughout Episode One.

There were also several instances in the episode where Rinne would pull a supernatural item out, and the action would pause while a narrator explained what the object was and what it does. While I didn’t mind this convention the first time I saw it, I thought it became overused and it lost what element of amusement that it had.

When it comes to the character designs, they’re obviously based on Rumiko Takahashi’s trademark style. But I have to give the character designer for the anime some credit for the fact that they seemed to try to change Sakura and Rinne’s designs just enough to make their faces look less like Kagome and Inuyasha than they do in the manga designs. I also thought it looked kind of weird that Sakura and Rinne’s teacher constantly had these weird star-like things in his eyes when no other characters have that. This was rather distracting and it just looked odd.

After watching the first episode of RIN-NE, I think the series will have the strongest appeal to viewers who enjoy stories with supernatural elements and don’t already have a familiarity with Takahashi’s earlier works or with the Bleach franchise. Takahashi fans might be distracted by the recycled character designs or by the fact that the story of RIN-NE isn’t as compelling early on as Takahashi’s previous works are.

Additional posts about RIN-NE:

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